'The project aims to empower young people to explore and preserve their lived cultural heritage'.
Sumaya Al E’mour, Youth Researcher
Occupied Palestinian Territories
Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) in partnership with The French Biblical School of Archaeology of Jerusalem, The Islamic University of Gaza, The University of Palestine, Nawa for Culture and Arts Association and Institut National du Patrimoine
To protect and preserve two damaged archaeological sites in the Gaza Strip, and to provide development opportunities for students and workers through capacity-building.
The Tell Umm ‘Amr (or Monastery) of Saint Hilarion in the middle area of the Gaza Strip and the Mukheitim (or Byzantine Church) in Jabalia are two sites of great importance in the chronology of history between paganism, Christianity and Islam. These targeted archaeological treasures in Gaza needed to be urgently protected and preserved for future generations.
Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) also identified these sites as potential future tourist areas that required restoration and protection work. This identification was done with the national Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA), as well as by archaeologists and university professors.
The restoration and conservation activities at St Hilarion included the consolidation of walls and rebuilding parts of the monastery crypt. In Jabalia, repair work included restoring a mosaic and rehabilitation of the reception building and entrance to the church garden.
Alongside restoration activities, the project provided training and capacity-building for students and skilled workers in conservation, archaeological techniques and 3-D documentation. Delivered through local community-based organisations, a public learning and engagement programme raised awareness in the importance of this valuable cultural heritage.
The fund worked with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees in Palestine (UNRWA) and public schools to educate pupils about their cultural heritage through guided visits to the sites. Thousands of people in Gaza have now visited the restored sites, and the project was presented to President Macron during his visit to Jerusalem.
At St Hilarion, there is now a boundary wall, a protective roof over the bath area, and visitor walkways. At Jabalia, the architectural and interior remains (which include some exceptional mosaics) are now enclosed in a new protective structure which has lowered the risk of permanent loss. All tools for production and stone-cutting were made in Gaza, contributing to reviving and developing technical knowledge that was previously unavailable. A forge was also set up on site where workers could shape and adapt their own tools, enabling the team to cut 240 stones to prepare the masonry and crypt restoration at St. Hilarion’s Monastery. The work created 87 temporary jobs in Gaza, whereby 39 were held by women who are usually underrepresented in the local workforce.
In 2020, in consultation with the youth of Gaza, the project transitioned to a programme-based approach. Supported by PUI, INTIQAL1 2030 runs a safe space in which girls, boys, young people and families engage in concrete actions and express their fears and hopes in a safe environment.
The Cultural Protection Fund (CPF) promotes a people-centred approach to Cultural Protection. It encourages partnerships at an institutional level by using our global network and cultural relations approach. Half of CPF projects are led by UK organisations, encouraging international knowledge exchange on common issues, best-practice sharing and influence on heritage protection processes and policies worldwide. The CPF is connected to a wider network of heritage protection funders and agencies, feeding into and benefitting from a wide range of research and intelligence on heritage protection. Heritage protection is a global, shared challenge and the learning and evaluation from CPF projects is fed back into a network to create better conditions for heritage protection and increased understanding of its positive impact on individuals and societies.